The Easybeats, are one of Australia's greatest pop bands of the 60's. Formed in Sydney in 1964, they were the first Australian rock 'n' roll act to have an international hit with 'Friday On My Mind'. With the formation of the Easybeats, Australia's music landscape was changed forever.
It was in a tiny Sydney radio theatrette that an intuitive young music publisher 'Ted Albert' gave a hearing to a fairly ragged but unmistakably determined beat band that had formed in the austere Villawood Migrant Hostel earlier in the year, comprising, Englishmen Stevie Wright and Gordon 'Snowy' Fleet, Scotsman George Young and Dutchmen Harry Vanda and Dick Diamonde. By the beginning of 1965 The Easybeats would have a manager, regular work in Sydney beat clubs and a publishing and recording contact with the venerable J. Albert & Son.
"There was a desire to write our own songs and that was what set us apart" Harry Vanda reflects now. "Up until that time, songs you heard on the radio came from somewhere mysterious. So we gave it a crack and started doing it ourselves." Well at least, to begin with, Wright and Young did.
They became amazingly prolific writers, Stevie having a knack for succinct rock lyrics and George with his exceptional capacity for ingenious melodies and intense musical structures.
The Easybeats stormed to number one in May 1965 with "She's So Fine" and the ferocious phenomenon of 'Easyfever' spiralled. Airports, TV stations, theatres and hire cars were reduced to rubble, fans were hospitalised and general mayhem reigned. With their vital, urgent sound The Easybeats gave Australian music a new identity and confidence. They were not only refreshingly original; they radiated an aura of raw, rebellious excitement that proved irresistible to an isolated generation intoxicated by its own youth.
What drove Easyfever was not just songs of singular excitement but an explosive delivery centred upon the impishly indefatigable Steve Wright. Harry Vanda described him as "probably the best front man I've ever seen. When he walked on stage you only saw him." George concurs: "Stevie was phenomenal and I'm not just saying that because he was our singer. At the time he was quite extraordinary. As years have passed he still measures up to the best of them – and he influenced many singers in his approach, in the need to entertain.
The irrepressible Wright, still 16 when the first number one exploded, was reaching beyond the front rows of howlers. By the time the Easybeats were lodged in London in 1966, the creative balance was shifting. As George explained, "We looked at the competition we were facing and realised we had to lift our game, musically. Stevie wasn't a musician, he was a performer, and I knew that I needed to work with another musician." The first Vanda & Young collaboration to emerge publicly was the song that stands as their most admired, acclaimed and recorded piece, the working class anthem, "Friday On My Mind" – a global hit for them that has since been recorded by David Bowie, Peter Frampton, Gary Moore and scores of others.
The Easybeats began writing and recording epic songs of sometimes extraordinary grandeur and shimmering beauty. George once explained "We were fumbling, groping around for hit tunes that were different. The ultimate, as far as we were concerned, was to be totally original and get hits. Original in the sense of finding new drumbeats, new guitar styles, new melodies, new chord changes, that sort of thing." The standouts were many, including "Heaven & Hell" and "The Music Goes 'Round My Head". But what they helped build they were quite prepared to help dismantle. "At this time the music in London had gone all fluffy, it was San Francisco flowers in your hair stuff" now reflects George. "We had an idea for a song that went back to the basics of rock 'n' roll."
Legend has it that when the BBC gave "Good Times" (with backing vocal by Small Face Stevie Marriott) a spin, Paul McCartney, driving on a motorway, found a roadside phone to ring and ask them to play it again.
Come 1969 it was all over for the Easybeats, who were fraying at the edges after being buffeted by all the things that a rock star lifestyle had to offer in the 60s. They made a final play for the American market with a more brassy, soulful sounding final album. The Billboard singles chart, almost cruelly, admitted the driving "St. Louis" into its lower reaches just as the group called it quits.
Australia had great natural rockers from day one - musicians of flair and imagination who could set alight any dance floor and singers who could rip with the best of them - what it did not have was innovative songwriters who could take their creations to the world and compete as equals. At least not until 1965. "We never looked back” once mused Harry Vanda. “We tried everything - it was trial and error all the way. If we'd stuck to a formula we could have lasted forever but it isn't in our natures to stand still." The thing is, they did last forever, or at least their songs will. [extract from Albert Music Website]
EASYFEVER'S LAST HURRAH
(Article by Glenn A. Baker on The Easybeats reunion in 1986)
I have been often accused of a certain myopia when it comes to the Easybeats, the first band after the Beatles to spin my life around. I adored them then, I adore them now and one of the high points of my years in music was the opportunity to accompany them on their late 1986 reunion tour, for which I wrote the programme book and all the press material. This particular version of the text first appeared pre-tour in the Sydney Morning Heralds arts pages as The Beat Goes On and was then fleshed out with concert details for a post-tour wrap-up in the June 1987 issue of America's Musician magazine.
The offers had been coming in for more than a decade. Generous enticements to reform Australia's most revered and eulogized rock band. Master songwriting producers Harry Vanda and George Young had always politely deflected the overtures without ever discounting the inevitability of a final hurrah for the incredible Easybeats.
The duo's sudden and unexpected decision to finally yield to popular demand and take to the road in late October with former comrades Stevie Wright, Dick Diamonde and Gordon 'Snowy' Fleet for a major capital city tour, was motivated by a mixture of curiosity, nostalgia and a desire to put the matter to rest once and for all. It came about as a result of the dogged determination of super-fan Mark Longobardi, a manager of stand-up comics who was able to put together a suitably attractive proposal and have it accepted just weeks after Vanda & Young had stated publicly (and honestly) that rumours of a reunion were completely groundless.
Saying yes was the hardest part, natural momentum did the rest. Drummer Snowy Fleet, who laid down his sticks to become a Perth builder in 1967 was secretly flown to Sydney for a tentative rehearsal. Stevie Wright had been performing regularly since the beginning of the year and bassist Dick Diamonde, as it was swiftly discovered, had simply never ceased being an Easybeat. "I thought it was going to be a shambles but it wasn't," commented Vanda with an undisguised note of wonder in his voice. "It felt good, it was all there."
The reunited Easybeats had a formidable task which went beyond faithfully recreating an urgent sound of considerable integrity. Just as the Beatles ushered in a new era for British rock, the brash young Easybeats gave Australian music a new identity and confidence, setting it on the road to global acceptance. They were not only refreshingly original but blessed with the same rare charisma as the Fab Four or Rolling Stones. They radiated an aura of raw, rebellious excitement which proved irresistible to an isolated generation intoxicated by the simple fact of its own youth. Australia was the country where a staggering 350,000 people turned out in the streets of a city of a half million population to loudly greet the Beatles.
At its peak, the phenomena dubbed 'Easyfever' by the down under media was the equal of any outpourings of Beatlemania. In an eighteen month period commencing in mid-1965, the group notched up nine smash hits and generated a manic fervour which saw airports, theatres, television stations and hire cars reduced to rubble, fans hospitalised and civic fathers outraged. The impish Stevie Wright was an idol of cosmic proportions, while the quiet George Young had a breathtaking grasp on song structure.
|Photos by Bob King|
Although the group never quite repeated that success, there was no shortage of devotees. In the '80s, Easybeat songs are valuable copyrights, with recent renditions by the Divinyls, the Plimsouls, Little River Band and Sports. Within days of the Australian dates being announced, concert offers were coming in from America and Europe (where Vanda & Young are major figures under their Flash & The Pan disguise). The tour just happened to coincide with Vanda & Young's return as producers of AC/DC, on the international hit Who Made Who?
"It feels like it was five other guys," insisted Harry Vanda at the opening press conference. "I see the old photos now and I can't relate to me being there. It's like looking at somebody else, and I'm sure George feels the same way. I don't think we've quite come to grips with the Sydney Entertainment Centre or Melbourne Festival Hall just yet. Everything has moved so fast. As it gets closer I think nerves will set in a bit."
As it eventuated, there were no shaky nerves on display when the six-date tour got underway in Melbourne on 30 October. The five original members took the stage to a standing ovation for their first concert in 17 years and delivered a robust 90 minute, 16 song set of astounding passion and energy. The set was primarily devoted to the Australian hits, along with two of Wright's early '70s solo tracks — the Rod Stewart-covered "Hard Road" and Suzi Quatro-covered "Evie".
Harry Vanda unleashed fluid blues guitar licks which had him dubbed B.B. Vanda for the remainder of the tour. Stevie Wright, at 37 and a confessed former heroin addict, managed a series of cartwheels, while dodging fans running on to the stage, '60s style. George Young, initially the most apprehensive, exerted his obvious creative influence on stage and by mid-tour was bopping around. There is also no shortage of local admirers. As the tour concluded in Canberra, with Vanda & Young admitting their satisfaction while firmly ruling out the possibility of any further performances, the country's two biggest acts — INXS and Jimmy Barnes — put the finishing touches to a 'joint' version of "Good Times", which stormed to number two on the charts within two weeks of release. The Saints then persuaded Vanda & Young to produce their remake of the 1968 Easybeats song "The Music Goes Round My Head".
I'm not a nostalgic person and I don't live in the past," says Stevie Wright, "but I was very sad when it was over. I went home after the Canberra show and cried. You see, by that point we'd all warmed to it and the original spirit had overtaken us all. I'm used to getting encores with my own band but the response at these shows had a degree of sentiment that I'd never felt before. We rediscovered songs like "St Louis", which we'd hardly ever played because it was our last record. We hadn't realised how ballsy a rock'n'roll song it is."
For Stevie, working with his "four brothers" again required no small amount of personal readjustment. "For years I've been leading my own bands, I've been the man. But when the Easybeats started rehearsing together I got relegated back to kid in the group. I must have been acting up a bit about that because Harry grabbed me by the shirt and told me, in no uncertain terms, to shape up. That's all I needed; it was just like the old days. There were no problems after that."
It was Vanda who, once committed, became the motivating force for the reunion. "It's always been a bit hard to come to grips with what the group means to a lot of people," he confided backstage. "In fact it was a bit frightening meeting those expectations. What George and I are doing now, with Flash & The Pan and as producers, really doesn't have a lot to do with the Easybeats. We've had to put ourselves into a different state of mind. But I don't think any of us regret doing it. There have been some emotional moments but the most important thing is that it happened musically."
[from "External Combustion" by Glenn A. Baker, Horwitz Grahame Publishers, 1990 p192-194]
This post consists of an MP3 rip (320kps) from my Hammard compilation vinyl and includes full album artwork. The track listing covers the Easybeats entire history, including one of their last recordings "St. Louis" and a personal favourite. Although there are many Easybeat compilations available today, this 'budget' release was one of the more popular ones available in the eighties, reaching #76 in the Australian Charts.
01 - For My Woman
02 - She's So Fine
03 - Wedding Ring
04 - Easy As Can Be
05 - In My Book
06 - Women
07 - Come And See Her
08 - I'll Make You Happy
09 - Sorry
10 - Friday On My Mind
11 - Pretty Girl
12 - Heaven And Hell
13 - Hello, How Are You
14 - Come In You'll Get Pneumonia
15 - Good Times
16 - Land Of Make Believe
17 - St. Louis
Stevie Wright (Vocals, Percussion)
Dick Diamonde (Bass, Backing Vocals)
Harry Vanda (Guitar, Backing Vocals)
George Young (Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals)
Gordon "Snowy" Fleet (Drums) 1964-67
Tony Cahill (Drums) 1967-70
The Easybeats Link (117Mb) New Link 07/10/2013